Family hope inquest will end prison murders

Michael Clegg died while sharing a cell with a violent arsonist, two years after a killing in the same jail

Just one day after Michael Clegg was discharged from a psychiatric hospital, he found himself in Leeds prison. Mr Clegg, 48, a mechanical engineer with no previous criminal record, was remanded in custody for an alleged assault on his wife because no place was available in a suitable probation hostel. The vulnerable father-of-three was shocked but thought he would have to wait only a few days to be reunited with his family. Less than two weeks later, he was dead.

Just after 5am on 9 May 2006, his family answered the door to the Leeds' prison governor flanked by police officers who told them Mr Clegg had been found hanging in his cell. Initially they were told it looked like suicide, despite the fact that Mr Clegg's buttocks were marked with stab wounds and his cellmate's semen. But within days a murder investigation had been launched.

Neil Preece-Smith pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting suicide in February 2007. In passing a 10-year sentence, the judge described him as an "extremely dangerous man" who bullied and humiliated his vulnerable cellmate into committing suicide. The Clegg family has never accepted the suicide verdict.

After a four-year wait, an inquest opens tomorrow amid claims the Prison Service has failed to learn the lessons from previous violent deaths which should have saved Mr Clegg's life.

Preece-Smith, 24, was serving a life sentence for arson with intent to endanger life after setting fire to his probation hostel in Wakefield on 1 January 2006.

A young man with a long criminal record, he posed a high risk to the public, according to a pre-sentencing report by his probation officer, which prison officers should have seen. He had also threatened to hurt Mr Clegg in the days leading up to his death – a fact recorded in his prison notes.

Nevertheless, Mr Clegg was allocated a cell to share with the convicted arsonist. Cell sharing is common because of overcrowding but according to prison rules, remand prisoners should not be forced to share with a convicted prisoner.

If sharing is unavoidable, the prison must undertake and regularly review a Cell Sharing Risk Assessment (CSRA) for each prisoner to ensure the arrangement is safe for both. Mandatory CSRAs were introduced after the murder of Zahid Mubarek, 20, at Feltham Young Offenders Institute by a cellmate in 2000. Since then, several murders and countless assaults have highlighted shortcomings in the way CSRAs are carried out and used by prison staff.

Mr Clegg died two years after Shahid Aziz had been murdered in the same prison. A report by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman into Mr Aziz's murder, published in October 2005, criticised the quality of CSRAs at Leeds. The report recommended urgent action to improve the timing, quality and use of CSRAs, to ensure violent prisoners were not put into cells with others.

Coroner David Hinchcliff, who also sat on the Aziz inquest, will hear evidence from 100 witnesses over the next seven weeks, and must decide whether Leeds prison acted on the Aziz report recommendations when ruling on the cause of death.

Daniel Machover, the Aziz family's solicitor, believes not: "It is extraordinary that this keeps happening again and again because the prison service fails to learn the most urgent lessons."

The murder of Ryan Beaver, 35, in Salford's Forest Bank prison in September 2008 by a cellmate who had previously threatened to assault him, suggests the failings are widespread. A review of CSRAs is under way.

Mr Clegg attended two bail hearings during his 12 days in prison, but no hostel was found for him. Another hearing was due on the day he was found hanging. The next morning his mother received a bogus letter, written by Preece-Smith pretending to be her son. She never recovered from her son's untimely death and died in 2008.

Mr Clegg's younger sister, Sue Winder, 46, said: "To see my mum, at the age of 70, fall to the floor when that governor told us Michael was dead, well, that haunts me more than anything. But even then I knew this wasn't suicide. He would never do that to his kids or our mam; never. And I still believe that.

"The prison let us down, they all did. If something can be learnt from Michael's death which saves one life and just one family going through what we have, then something would have come of it. It has to stop somewhere, and we want to change things."

Philippa Matthews of Howells Solicitors, who represents the Clegg family, said: "The state has an obligation to protect life and also to properly investigate any prison death.

"The investigation must see if lessons can be learned. Michael's family hope that the inquest will provide them with reassurances that systems are in place at Leeds prison to prevent vulnerable prisoners from being placed in double cells with others who could cause them harm."

Suggested Topics
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Science Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Key stage 3 and 4 Teacher requi...

RE Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

A Level Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

NQT Secondary Teachers

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is actively r...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence